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When it comes to your acquisition program, a key acronym to remember is ABT…

Always Be Testing

The great thing about direct response is the ability to test, read results, and then use that data point to evolve your program. This allows data to be the diplomat in making decisions on everything from copy and design to whether it’s better to mail in June or July.

Remember These Best Practices for Testing Your Direct Response Efforts

Testing can come in all shapes and sizes: however, all tests are not created equal. Here are some key things to remember when you are testing aspects of your acquisition program:

  1. Have a goal

When you’re testing, it’s important to have a specific goal you’re trying to move the needle on: response rate, average gift, frequency, retention, etc. You should not test unless you have clarity on what area of your program you hope to affect. Develop your hypothesis, and use it as an anchor to create your test.

  1. Focus on one variable

Always remember to test only one thing at a time. If you change multiple variables, it is difficult to ascertain which variable drove the improved response or decreased performance. If you have the budget, you can consider engaging in multi-variate testing—but you would need an analyst to help set up the testing and interpret the results.

  1. Aim for significance

Because there is a cost and risk associated with testing, it’s critical that you set up your testing appropriately so you have results that are statistically significant and can be acted upon. Universe size will be important. The larger the test sample, the more statistical confidence you will have in your results. It is also important to establish a control panel of similar make up (volume and segmentation) so that you can measure the test results against it.

  1. Account for cost

When evaluating results (especially on a net impact), be sure you are using rollout costs since test cost per piece can be much higher. Also, there are different ways to approach testing depending on your budget and your hypothesis:

  • Low-cost, high-impact testing – This is done within the same housing of the package and can be something as simple as a gift array test (like if you are trying to drive up average gift size). This is low cost to implement, and if you hit and it works, you’ve essentially increased your average gift.
  • High-cost, high-impact testing – This type of testing typically results in a breakthrough. It costs you more, but if/when you hit, the upside could be fairly significant.
  1. Go digital

Testing within digital has its advantages when it comes to cost and speed-to-market with learnings. Areas of digital acquisition testing include subject lines, donation button placement, email marketing, donation form A/B testing, etc. Use digital as an inexpensive testing ground. Learn from digital and use that for other efforts.

  1. Don’t be afraid to lose

Keep in mind, not every test will be a winner. In fact, more often than not the test loses. But testing it still worthwhile because, when you do find a winner, the positive impact to your program can be exponential and may even be extrapolated across more than one campaign.

Learn more ways to improve your acquisition efforts and drive greater donor loyalty—download our resource First Impressions of Acquisition today.